He was one of the most dominating hurdlers in Sam Houston State history and capped off his career helping guide the men’s track and field team to its first Southland Conference championship in school history in 2005.
Oh, and he also posted one of the fastest times in the nation in the 110-meter hurdles.
Adrian Ray was a model student athlete both on the track and off, and for that, he was voted the Male Athlete of Year in 2005 by The Huntsville Item.
A few weeks before the SLC championships at the York Track and Field Complex at Bowers Stadium, Ray broke one of the oldest records in the SHSU books — Efren Gibson’s 35-year-old 110-hurdle mark of 13.4 set back in 1970. Ray ran a 13.63, but because Gibson ran in an era when times were recorded by hand, the conversion to today’s fully automated time is to add .24 making Gibson’s run a 13.64.
That was just one of the reasons he was voted ahead of Huntsville football standout Adrian Archie, SHSU’s Southland Conference basketball player of the year Joe Thompson, New Waverly’s state qualifying cross country runner Rayman Stecker and former Hornet hoops star Eldrick Spivey.
Not only was his record-setting time the best ever at SHSU, it also ranked near the top of the 110 times in the country last spring. So when glancing down at the list of the top runners in the nation, Ray and Sam Houston State were included along side hurdlers from big time conference programs like Arkansas, Florida, Oregon and Ole Miss.
“Ever since I got here and started focusing on the 110s, I have had my eye on that record,” Ray said a few days after breaking the record. “It has always been in the back of my head. I pretty much knew I was going to get it eventually, but to finally have it feels good. ... The Southland (Conference) doesn’t get the same type of respect that the Big 12, the Pac 10 or the SEC gets. Knowing that I can go up against their best and their best will have to deal with me is kind of an ego stroker.”
Ray carried that momentum to the SLC meet and showed the rest of the conference just how fast he was. He swept both the 110- and 400-meter hurdles. The senior All-American also set a new Bowers Stadium record and a regional qualifying mark in the 110 with a time of 13.68 seconds.
“My team needed me to get some points out here early and get us off to the right track,” Ray said following his 110-meter hurdle victory. “Yesterday my team just needed me to qualify for the finals and today they needed me to go out and win it, so that is what I did.”
Ray was a big reason the Bearkats roared back from 30 points behind in the final day of the SLC meet to claim the championship. Along with his hurdle titles, he was part of the 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams that captured first-place finishes.
But Ray’s legacy at SHSU almost never happened. He first came to Huntsville as a triple jumper, and luckily for the Bearkats, he had trouble adjusting at the collegiate level.
“I never thought I would come this far because I was recruited to be a triple jumper,” Ray said. “Hurdles was just something I did on the side so it’s kind of funny. I was having problems adjusting to the training and that happens to a lot of high schoolers coming out.”
Not only did Ray rise to the challenge in 2005, but he made sure that his name will be etched into the record books at SHSU for years to come.
“You go up to the trophy case and see all these pictures of guys in there, and it’s funny to think that maybe 10 or 20 years from now some kid might look and see me and say, ‘Who’s that guy? He has a funny mustache’ or something like that,” Ray said.
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